11/03/2006 1:00AM

Rich in Spirit a deserving favorite


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Breeders' Cup visitors still in town Sunday could probably do worse than take in yet another day of horse racing at Churchill Downs. Unlike the day after the Kentucky Derby, when a massive cleanup effort requires the track to go dark, Churchill has made a habit of conducting racing on the Sundays after the Breeders' Cup is held here.

The result is a racing product designed to entice the tourists to do something other than visit a museum or take a stroll through a city park. The $150,000 Cardinal Handicap, the Sunday feature, serves as a good example. With a highly competitive field of 12 stakes-proven fillies and mares, the Grade 3 Cardinal is the kind of betting event to harken the fading echoes of what will have transpired here the previous day.

Rich in Spirit, with 3 wins and 2 seconds from 5 tries over the Churchill turf course, looks like a deserving favorite, albeit a lukewarm one. Trained by Tom Proctor for the filly's owner-breeder, Glen Hill Farm, Rich in Spirit will break from post 9 when she is ridden by Mark Guidry in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Guidry will be seeking his second straight Cardinal, having won the 2005 edition aboard the Japanese-bred Sundrop, owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor.

Rich in Spirit already owns victories in the Regret and Locust Grove, both Grade 3 races run over the local course. Last July in the Locust Grove, a race noticeably void of speed, she used her tactical versatility to force the early pace, and with the Cardinal seeming to lack much pace, another forward trip could be forthcoming Sunday.

Her main challenges could come from any number of spots, including Royal Copenhagen, a Chicago shipper who, like Rich in Spirit, raced respectably when finishing behind Gorella two starts ago in the Aug. 12 Beverly D. at Arlington Park; Stormina, a winner of 5 of her last 7 races for the Todd Pletcher empire; Amorama, a Bobby Frankel-trained mare who was good enough to win the Grade 1 Mabee Handicap in 2005; and Silca's Sister, a Godolphin filly who will be treated with the diuretic Lasix for the first time.

Rounding out the field are Black Java, Dash of Humor, More Than Promised, Beautiful Bets, Dynamist, Sabellina, and Carolina Sky.

The Cardinal, which dates to 1974, goes as the 10th of 11 races on a card that starts at 12:40 p.m. Eastern.